Genetically modified cow a step closer to commercial pastures

Genetically modified cow a step closer to commercial pastures

CHINA - A type of domestically grown genetically modified dairy cow resistant to an infection that lowers milk yield is expected to reach the market in five to eight years, according to a national legislator.

The bacterial infection, mastitis, is widespread among dairy cattle.

Sun Qixin, president of Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University and a National People's Congress deputy, said the university has been researching a GM cow for seven years.

"It's now being tested for its safety in human food products and in the environment," Sun said.

Professor Zhang Yong of the veterinary medicine department at the university, who is in charge of the research, said, "We've fed laboratory mice milk from the genetically engineered cow for five generations and so far nothing wrong has been detected in the mice. That's highly promising."

But he said even if everything goes smoothly, such a cow still needs to pass many regulatory hurdles and the test of public opinion before becoming a commercial prospect.

Zhang said the university now keeps more than 100 such cattle, which have been examined and observed closely for any potential health and growth problems.

So far, "they have been doing pretty well," he said.

Apart from laboratory mice, "we also feed other cattle with GM cow milk and so far everything has been fine with the recipients," he said.

All food from genetically modified organisms, both crops and animals, must undergo a series of strict safety assessments and examinations before being ready for human consumption, he said.

The safety testing alone usually takes at least three years, he added.

For the type of GM cow they have been researching, Zhang said the protein of the genes used is from human milk and saliva. And the genes have never resulted in any negative health impact.

Thereafter, in theory, "it should be safe for the cow itself and humans who consume related food products." But he said each step of the research process is, as required by national regulations, scrutinized and managed closely.

Sun said the move is a definite future trend but it is important to ensure safety as well.

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